Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Ron Paul and the Cause of Liberty

Tibor R. Machan

Among libertarians hardly anyone criticizes Dr. Paul. The few who do have, in turn, abandoned him completely.~ I haven’t and I do write some supporting missives regarding his candidacy, although I think he has a style that stands in the way of his getting taken seriously as a presidential hopeful. And I also criticize his ideas now and then.

Mostly I find fault with his blowback theory vis-à-vis 9/11, the belief that terrorists act as they do largely because of America’s Middle East policies.~ In contrast, I believe terrorists are motivated by an ancient anti-Western, anti-Enlightenment ideology and religion and America’s Middle East policies have only been fuel on the fire, not the reason for the terrorist stance at all.

I support Dr. Paul because he is the only candidate today who firmly and consistently advocates limited government, something that to me is a bigger issue than his ideas on~foreign policy. Yet even on this score I am concerned with how Dr. Paul expresses his position. For example, he keeps saying we should “just go back to the U. S. Constitution.” But this is a troublesome idea because it doesn’t spell out which version of the U. S. Constitution is supposed to be worth going back to. It is surely not the original one, the one that permitted slavery and included some highly disturbing and false claims about African Americans. Or is it supposed to be the current version, one that has innumerable statist amendments included in it and no longer supports limited government?

In my view Dr. Paul should not issue blanket endorsement of the U. S. Constitution. Although sound bite talk is now the preferred way for candidates to communicate, it is very risky to yield to that policy because sometimes where one ought to stand on the relevant issues is complicated and cannot be stated simply. Perhaps what Dr. Paul and others who publicly advocate the free society should do is identify themselves as “Declarationists” so as to indicate that what they support is the principles of the free society as the Founder paid them out in the Declaration of Independence, not in the compromised political-legal document that became the U. S. Constitution.

The Declaration, which is a pre-legal, philosophical document, is nearly flawless and would really be very good to go back to--or rather to move ahead toward, since America never did full justice to it and it is high time it begins to do so. It is the ideas of the Declaration that have inspired millions of people to head toward America’s shores because of its position in the world as the beacon of liberty.

Ron Paul will probably not win the Republican nomination or the presidency but with the message that America should aspire to realize and implement the principles laid out in the Declaration he could spawn a serious political movement and influence the country’s direction henceforth. Even his foreign policy ideas--namely, that the government’s task is to fend off those who attack the country because the justification for its existence is the securing of the rights of its citizens--would flow much easier from the Declaration than from the U. S. Constitution.

Dr. Paul could then become today’s popular voice of America’s true and distinctive political ideas and ideals, not the voice of the rather muddled and corrupted ideas contained in the U. S. Constitution. There is hardly any principle in that legal document that hasn’t been eroded over the centuries--only the defense of freedom of speech and religion remains reasonably intact (although even there cracks are evident now).

Sometimes in the heat of election campaigning even candidates who are committed to sound principles will lapse because of the demands imposed on them. Sound bite communication makes it impossible to be thorough and nuanced. But I think it is possible to resist this with some careful guidance--and Ron Paul now has enough cash to hire folks who can provide him with the text he needs to make clear that he stands for human liberty first and foremost, something this country desperately needs.

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